ADHD & Alcohol: How Are They Related?

Alcohol can be very enticing to people with ADHD. They find the numbing effect of alcohol extremely interesting and are more likely to crave a regular drink than most people. However, as you may know, the combination of ADHD with alcohol can be a very tricky affair. The brain of a person with ADHD tends to make the person inattentive, more impulsive or a mix of the two traits. This means that if you have ADHD, you may be two or three times more likely to become an alcoholic or a substance abuser.

How Are ADHD and Alcohol Related?

People with ADHD Should Be More Careful About Drinking Alcohol

If you have adequate self control when it comes to alcohol, you are probably all right. However, most people with ADHD should avoid alcohol consumption because the frontal lobe of the brain has low activation already or is impaired. Additionally, research has shown that the prefrontal cortex is smaller in people with ADHD.

The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for executive functions like attention, thinking, memory, organization and problem solving. The part of the frontal lobe known as the prefrontal cortex regulates functions such as movement, control of impulses and managing behavioral responses among others.

Because of the impairments in the frontal lobe of people with ADHD, it is harder for them to remain in control, avoid embarrassing behaviors or manage emotions even when sober.

Alcohol Affects the Frontal Lobe

Considering the impairment of the frontal lobe in people with ADHD, and considering that alcohol also affects this part of the brain, it is clear why consumption of alcohol is dangerous in case you have ADHD. It can lead to wild emotions, uncontrollable behavior including disturbed nights.

This does not mean that you cannot take some alcohol simply because you have ADHD. In fact, taking a little alcohol can be fun. However, you need to be very careful when it comes to ADHD and alcohol because the combination can expose you to a lot of danger.  

What Happens If You Use Alcohol Together with ADHD Medication?

ADHD with alcohol is usually never a good combination because it can strain the cardiovascular system by making it work harder. Additionally, if you take medications like Adderall or Vyvanse prior to consuming alcohol, you risk drinking too much.

This is because the medications have the effect of feeling immune to intoxication by more alcohol than is your norm. For this reason, it is better to avoid alcohol when your system has ADHD medication.

But in case your system is largely free of the ADHD medication, taking one or two glasses of red wine will be fine. This is the approach by people who take the medication during the early parts of the day and thereafter enjoy a drink or two in the evening.

You should, however, never consume alcohol as a asleep aid; otherwise, you will end up paying very dearly. If you find it hard to fall asleep, especially once you have taken ADHD medication, don’t pick a drink of alcohol. Instead, consider changing your lifestyle, incorporate physical exercises to your day routine or change your sleep habit. You may also need to consult your doctor to see whether a change of medication may help.

How to Deal with ADHD and Alcohol

Research shows that just as ADHD and the alcohol do not combine well, ADHD medications and alcohol should not go together. But because many people with ADHD detest having to take medication for the rest of their lives, it makes sense to consider natural ways of managing ADHD symptoms. These include the following:

Lifestyle Changes

Incorporating some lifestyle changes can have positive effects on the symptoms of ADHD. The most important changes are exercise and diet.

Physical exercise helps your body to release feel-good chemicals whose levels are usually low in people with ADHD. This increase helps to improve moods and boost confidence. Exercise can also improve metal focus and the general outlook.

On its part, making dietary changes can improve some ADHD symptoms. People with ADHD are usually deficient in omega-3, magnesium and vitamins such as B12. By taking a carefully constituted diet, it is possible to increase your intake of these and other nutrients. This can improve ADHD symptoms.


Therapy can help improve the symptoms of ADHD. This is especially important for children with ADHD because it can help them focus their minds and to set up strategies for dealing with difficult situations. Therapy can also benefit adults. Therapy also involves discussing the problems and making plans for dealing with various situations. This can help improve organization and management of affairs of persons with ADHD.


Because persons with ADHD are usually restless, a hobby can occupy this void. Hobbies work even better if they have tangible benefits and they can be done regularly. They should also be enjoyable to the individual and may include creating things with wood, learning a new skill, painting and nature walks among others. Hobbies are a great way of dealing with ADHD symptoms.

Adhd and Alcohol: Conclusion

Studies have shown that people with ADHD have a higher risk of substance abuse including alcoholism. The combination of ADHD and the alcohol is therefore tricky. In case you have ADHD and are on ADHD medication, you should have a discussion with your doctor to help you make a decision that takes into account your own health and the health of your relationships. Ask your doctor whether it is safe for you to take alcohol and if yes, ask how and when you should take your medication to avoid any negative interactions. The doctor will be in a position to advise you appropriately.

For people with ADHD but not on medication, it is still important to beware of their drinking habits because they are more likely to make poor decisions concerning alcohol. This may end up causing harm to yourself or to others. Some people with ADHD can take some alcohol and still remain in good control; however, for many others the best thing to do is to avoid alcohol. Consider your capabilities candidly and make the best decision for your unique self. And remember that it is better to be cautious than sorry.